Custom Car Designers

August 17, 2016

Jim Roten 52 Ford




Jim Roten Acquired his 1952 Ford Convertible in 1954. He started customizing it right away. Over the next few years the car developed in a wonderful styled Mild Custom.

By Jim Roten

Jim Roten from Chico California has been into custom cars since he was a teenager. In 1954 Jim bought an slightly used 1952 Ford Convertible, and of course he could not leave it alone and started to do some mild restyling right away, to improve the looks of his new ride. Jim Roten has a keen eye when it comes to Custom Restyling, he would be come close friends with Chico Customizer Riley Collin’s for which Jim did a lot of design work in the 1950’s. Riley Collins was also responsible for the more serious Custom Restyling on Jim’s 1952 Ford that would be done in the mid 1950’s. Jim took plenty of photos along the way to document the changes made to his Ford from 1954 till around 1956.


1952 Ford Version One

CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-01Jim with his near new 1952 Ford in 1954. Mostly stock, but there are some custom hubcaps and accessory bumper guards, and many custom dreams.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-02All the emblems and handles were still in place.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-03A little later the hood was nosed,the bumper guards removed and stock grille was replaced with a 1953 unit with custom center piece.



1952 Ford Version Two

After driving the car around with just a few small Custom Restyling touches it was time to get a little more serious. Jim had his friend Riley Collins in Chico remove all the emblems, trunk handle and side trim on the rear quarters. As was the norm for most Custom Restyled cars in those days, the fresh body work was covered in primer and the car was ready for more cruising. Jim’s white car had dark gray primer spots for some time, it was cool to drive the car like that, it showed you were working on your car, improving its looks. Back in those days most people proceeded on a custom build only as they could afford it, which was usually a series of small steps at a time. Throughout the process the cars were used as daily transportation.

CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-04The stock taillights lenses had been replaced with 1956 Oldsmobile Starfire units.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-05Jim replaced the moon hubcaps with 1956 Oldsmobile hubcaps. Here Jim’s in progress Ford is parked behind his friend Joe Navarro’s Chevy Hard-Top. Primer spot parade…


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-06Joe Navarro Chevy Hard-Top with primer spots shows it was really common to drive your car around like this for some time. .  It too, was in the early stages of customizing by Riley Collins. Notice that Jim’s Ford has a slight tail dragging stance, while his friends Chevy has a slight forward rake (California Rake).


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-07A little more work was done, but it still was not time for a full paint-job yet….


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-08Some more fine tuning on the molded headlights, new 1953 Ford spear on the rear quarter and now it was time to get the interior and new top done Bill Luckenbill did the interior work as well as the really great looking Carson-type folding top in white canvas.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-24Looking good.. and almost ready for paint. Only the door handles needed to come of and then the car was ready for it first copper paint job.


CCC-jim-roten-chico-lancers-plaqueJim Roten was a member of the Chico Lancers Car Club.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-09By now the door handles were shaved and Riley Collins painted the car in a wonderful copper color.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-10Jim also added a set of fender skirts at this time, and the taillight rings were molded to the rear fender for an smoother look, similar to that of the front fender / headlight.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-12Some time later Jim added 1956 Dodge grille bar teeth to the grille, added white pin-striping an replaced the hubcaps with 1954 Mercury units to which he added center bullets. Jim Also added a second spotlight on the passenger side of the car.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-13A good look at the Bill Luckenbill interior and the Carson-type folding top.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-14Close up photo shows the 1956 Dodge grille teeth added to the grille bar and the pin-striping on the hood and front fender.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-15Only one color photo remained of this version of the car.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-11October 1956 ooops…. time for some more custom restyling.


1952 Ford Version Three

Before the accident Jim’s Car had all the emblems and door handles shaved. It had solenoid-operated doors and deck lid. The headlights and taillights were frenched. Taillight lenses were 1956 Oldsmobile Starfire. For the new updated version Jim took his Ford of course to his friend Riley Collins who would round the hood corners and fabricated a new grill surround and molded splash pan. A new floating grill was made up from ’53 Studebaker grill bars with turn signals for the top portions. These two units were neatly freched into round rod shaped openings. An 1952 Oldsmobile center bar was used on the bottom of the opening. To the grille bar Jim added 1956 Dodge grill teeth. Forward side trim on the doors came from a 1956 Pontiac.

The rear quarter panels were reshaped and teeth from a 1954 Mercury were used. The side trim on the rear quarters comes from a 1953 Ford. The hubcaps for this version are 1956 Oldsmobile again. The smaller spotlights were replaced with real Appletons. The car was lowered all around about four inches. And when it came time for paint, Jim was inspired by Geore Sein’s Barris Kustoms restyled 1932 Ford 5-window coupe. Paint job was done by Riley Collins in nitrocellulose lacquert two-tone copper and lime gold. Customization was completed by July 1957.

CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-16Riley Collins with Jim’s Ford. He was preparing the car at an auto show shortly after he finished it in Copper and lime gold ’53 Ford in the summer of 1957. Jim had already joined the Navy by then.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-17Wonderful lines on Jim’s Ford created by the custom side trim and body work. It really shows Jim design skills.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-18Notice how nice the side trim follows the shape of the new top. Jim also added new bumper guards to the bumpers for the final version.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-19Jim’s Ford was for both shows as well as regular road use.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-20This final version has the fender skirts removed again, which gives the car a more sporty look.


CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-21Good look at the new grille in Jim’s Ford. ’53 Studebaker bars on the top, ’52 Olds bar on the bottom with 56 Dodge teeth. The new rounded hood corners have the same radius as the headlights. 



CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-23Jim Roten with his 1952 Ford final version in April 1957.


Not too long after the car was completed in July 1957, Jim enlisted in the US Navy and soon after that he sold the car. Jim was only 17 years old when I acquired the car and 20 when it was sold. He has no idea what happened to it after that, and its present day whereabouts are unknown. Hopefully one of our readers might know more about Jim’s old 1952 Ford and knows what happened to it after 1957.
Click HERE to see more of Jim Roten’s amazing Collection.


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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)


  1. I love the primer spots on the cars. Great stuff Rik!!

  2. i second the motion i too like them primer spots rik,

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